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Becoming a Blessed Church: Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence, and Power Paperback – December 10, 2004

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


This book is not for everyone. It is not for those who are comfortable with business-as-usual church, for those who think that programs and theories will fix declining congregations. Becoming a Blessed Church is for those Christians who idealistically believe that the Trinitarian God has something to do with our lives— those who seek the Creator’s purposes, who hunger for Jesus’ presence, and who know that the Spirit’s power alone can save and heal the world. In these pages, Graham Standish points the way of hope, opening the possibility that a church can be blessed and offer blessing through deceptively simple acts of faith and trust that can nurture wise, authentic, discerning, and loving spiritual communities. (Diana Butler Bass, Author, "Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community" and "The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church")

Graham Standish has cultivated a church with vibrant purpose, contagious presence, and compassionate power. Now he invites us not to copy it, but to create a culture of discernment in the context of our own communities. (Kent Ira Groff, Founding Mentor, Oasis Ministries for Spiritual Development, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania)

Graham Standish and the people of Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, have together discovered something most mainline congregations don’t know: how to create a church that is open at its foundations to God’s purpose, presence, and power. Standish shows us how a church can become spiritually deep and both inwardly and outwardly healthy on every level, how God’s blessings can flow through everything the church does, and how members can actually experience and encounter God. His vision for churches is exciting and compelling, and congregations that dare to discover this path Standish believes God is calling them to walk will be truly blessed! (Walter Kallestad, Senior Pastor, Community Church of Joy, Glendale, Arizona)

I am deeply grateful to Graham Standish for his thoughtful, practical, and inspiring masterpiece, Becoming a Blessed Church. Now, if anyone asks me to recommend one book that a church's leaders could read together to help them envision a better, more vibrant future, this is where I'll point them. He presents a vision that is accessible to and legitimate for churches across the spectrum because it gets beyond old polarities—evangelical, mainline, traditional, contemporary, etc.—and leads to a better, richer, more fruitful path. (Brian McLaren, speaker, pastor, and author of "The Road We Make By Walking")

About the Author

The Rev. N. Graham Standish is pastor of Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pennsylvania. He is the author of three previous books on spirituality and is a therapist, retreat leader, teacher, and an adult adjunct faculty member at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He holds a Ph.D. in spiritual formation.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (December 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566993121
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566993128
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Most of my life has been devoted to helping people become healthier in mind, body, and spirit. As a result, I have been a teacher, retreat leader, spiritual director, as well as an individual, marital, and family therapist. My Ph.D. is in spiritual formation from Duquesne University, a degree that balances theory and praxis to help people grow not only spiritually, but in life. My Master of Social Work is from the University of Pittsburgh, and my Master of Divinity is from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

I have been pastor of Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pennsylvania since January of 1996, and a pastor since 1988. Calvin Church is living out a vision to be a church rooted in prayer and a passionate desire to seek and do God's will in everything. Over the past 14 years, Calvin Church has more than doubled in size, and has garnered national attention in several studies, including one by Diana Butler-Bass, who included Calvin Church in her groundbreaking book, Christianity for the Rest of Us, which researched churches across the country that are leading Christians to renewal through an emphasis on spirituality and spiritual practices (www.dianabutlerbass.com). Our approach to church is an alternative to the traditional or evangelical approaches dominating the Christian church realm.

I am the author of six books: In God's Presence: Encountering, Experiencing, and Embracing the Holy in Worship (2010), Humble Leadership (2007), Becoming the Blessed Church (2005), Discovering the Narrow Path (2002), Paradoxes for Living (2001), and Forming Faith in a Hurricane (1998). I have contributed to five others: Living Our Story: Narrative Leadership and Congregational Culture (2010), From Nomads to Pilgrims (2006), Let Us Pray: Reformed Prayers for Christian Worship (2003) and The Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation (2003). I have also written numerous articles in spirituality, spiritual direction, and spirituality in congregations.

I am an adjunct professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Doctor of Ministry program and Certificate in Spiritual Formation Program, focusing in the areas of spirituality and congregational leadership. I have served on the boards of the Samaritan Counseling Center and editorial board of Presence, the journal of Spiritual Directors International.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Pastor Standish shares an approach to building up a church, no matter how long it has been in existence and no matter what size it is, into a vibrant, blessed body of Christ. One of the criteria our church used for evaluating the myriad of books and recommended approaches available for study was - how is it working for the author? Well, Pastor Standish's denominational suburban church continues to grow and to thrive.

The approach is pretty simple. Invite God to all of your church meetings, not just your worship services. Start your business meetings with devotions, and dedicate significant time and energy to the Lord. Pray fervently about your church's decisions and needs, and trust that God answers prayers. Let this approach become the way things are always done at every gathering no matter how large or small. Call on the Holy Spirit to take part in the decision-making process.

Being an accountant, I can reconcile accounts and plan budgets with the best of them. However, after reading this book, I now realize that it's okay if my church's forecasted giving doesn't quite measure up to the planned expenses. It's okay if those expenses are a result of what the Spirit is calling our church to do. Pastor Standish includes many accounts, personal and anecdotal, of funding arriving on time from unplanned sources to allow a church organization to fulfill its mission.

The book is filled with so much more.
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Format: Paperback
Drawing on his experience as a pastor and counselor, Standish describes a blessed church as one that is "alive because God is alive." As the pastor of Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pennsylvania he has encouraged an experience with God rather than activity-based church experiences about God. Beginning with prayer to discern God's purpose and vision for the church, the author provides an appendix filled with suggested processes for becoming a blessed church. This refreshing book is not about church membership growth. Rather, it leads the church to become a deeper, broader, spirit-filled community of Christ. The thoughtful reflection questions at the end of each chapter make this an excellent book for study groups and church leaders who are seeking God's transformation in their own lives and the life of the church.
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Format: Paperback
According to the author, "becoming a blessed church means overcoming rational functionalism," which he sees as "rooted in the idea that we can uncover the mysteries of life and the universe mainly through rational thought and disciplined investigation." The author sees two adverse consequences to this functionalism in church life: the church loses the sense that God is in its midst, and its processes become paramount. To overcome this situation, the author recommends that the church prayerfully discern God's purpose for them in all circumstances, allow God - especially Christ - to become present in their worship and lives, and become open to God as power through the actions of the Holy Spirit. This process requires leadership, specifically faith filled, hopeful, loving, humble, prayerful leaders who are deeply rooted in God. The author posits that such leaders will have certain necessary dispositions for a blessed church, e.g., "trusting, encouraging, compassionate, visionary, able to articulate that vision, sacrificially selfless, and committed to outreach." The book concludes with 14 appendices dealing with subjects as diverse as "Discerning God's Purpose for the Church" to the "All-Committee Budgeting Process."

The key strengths in this book include its emphasis on prayer in the leadership of the church and the book's invaluable appendices. The author's approach to church leadership could be said to be saturated in prayer. This saturation is particularly evident in the author's discussion of "Prayerful Discernment of our Purpose." I thought I had been prayerfully discerning God's purposes pretty well until I read this section of the book.
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This book was a blessing. Leadership and pastors who have a desire to please and serve God....and be the church Jesus wants us to be should read this book. The message is simple....our plans and thoughts are not necessarily God's. I liked the clear way the author describes how to go about changing the emphasis from our ideas to listening to God.
Intentional, corporate, and private prayer....quiet discerning, waiting and listening for God to move is what is required.. Every church is not called to grow numerically. It is not about attracting members.. Some are called to be missional in their community, making disciples and sending forth, teaching and helping believers to grow deeper spiritually. God has many purposes...but He mostly waits for us to worship Him and allow His power to be manifested. We are then blessed to be a blessing in this world.....leading others to a personal relationship with Jesus.
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